*When we think of Audi, two words immediately spring to mind: turbo and Quattro. These technologies enabled Audi to build machines so good, so powerful they dominated the world's racetracks. That same technology made it to the street and left us with more than a few remarkable cars.
Call us old-fashioned, but we sort of miss those days. There was something terribly seductive about wringing big power from small displacement. And as much as we like Audi's current generation of naturally aspirated engines, we can't help but imagine what a turbo or two would do to the bottom line.
We've heard a few whispers in the hallways, things like the next S4 will return to a twin-turbo six. As of now, this is simply rumor. However, during a recent conversation with highly placed Audi brass, we were told: "If you like turbochargers you will like the next generation of cars. Just wait a bit."
Easier said than done. This is what else we asked, and what they told us.
EC: Recently Audi seems to have eschewed turbocharging in favor of large-capacity, naturally aspirated engines. Smaller motors, like in the TT and the [European] A5, are obviously benefiting from turbo technology, but what about the range-toppers?
Audi: RS4 models and the R8 all feature our naturally aspirated V8 engine. Its free-revving ability and spontaneous response mean it is very well suited to these particular models. But Audi has absolutely not said goodbye to turbocharging for top models. The new RS6 Avant has a 580-hp twin-turbo V10 with peak torque of almost 480 lb-ft, available as low as 1500 rpm. This means our largest station wagon is able to perform like a sports car.
EC: Regarding the RS4/RS6 and the huge power they produce: how does the company see this developing? And how much is too much?
Audi: While the RS4 and RS6 engines are both high-output units, they also feature FSI direct injection technology pioneered in our Le Mans-winning sports car prototypes. FSI delivers precisely metered amounts of fuel into the combustion chambers at very high compression ratios, leading to remarkably effi cient combustion compared to the power output. The future of Audi models is one of better driving performance, improved fuel consumption and lower emissions. The final power output of our engines will be a consequence of achieving these goals. Higher engine output is not a target in itself and is sometimes not even necessary. Take the new TT. It is longer, wider and better equipped than the predecessor model. Yet we left peak output of the top V6-powered version unchanged at 250 hp. This is because the new TT is lighter than its predecessor, thanks to a spaceframe body made of aluminum and steel. We were able to deliver better driving performance by reducing weight rather than by increasing power output.